Diary of a Network Geek

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



Filed under: Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

A screensaver that monitors your server.Systemometer

This may not seem like much of a “tool”, since it’s pretty passive, but when you have a server that’s getting old and failing, being able to quickly glance at what its performance is like can be a real benefit.  And, for the past eight months, I’ve been running a server that, to be honest, was a little too old to be in production.  People would complain about it pretty much constantly, even, I suspect, when it may not have been the actual problem they were suffering from.  I’ve since replaced the server, but I kept running Systemometer on both the old server, which now serves as strictly a backup server, and the new, shiny, Windows 2012 server, just so everyone can see the difference.

But, let me be really specific about this; Systemometer is a configurable monitoring tool that shows system performance and resources in a spider chart. Seeing the varying shapes of displayed polygon, representing a visual pattern drawn based on normal, or critical, system states. Once you get used to it, this snapshot view helps to read the overall system status at a glance. Just looking at the screenshot in this post, which will enlarge if you click on it, you can see that a lot of information is displayed.  Notice, for instance, that there are 12 “CPU”s listed.  Since this is a modern, multi-core server, those are really just all the cores being displayed, with the current processor time in yellow and the average processor time in green.  If I wanted to, I can also set Systemometer to display the maximal processor usage, but as this is a new server, I haven’t bothered to set that.  The same goes for the number of processes the server is handling, as well as the number of threads.  Also displayed is the physical and virtual memory usage, total drive space used and the hard drive seek time.  Notice how almost everything falls well within that red circle on the display?  That’s because the server is new and being used well below it’s capacity, by design.  This is the second server upgrade I’ve done since I’ve been at this company, and I’d like to not have to do one again soon.  That’s also why the number of threads is reading like it’s in the red, even though it’s not.  The new server is so new that not all metrics have been calibrated to display correctly.
Also, notice that the two performance polygons are yellow and green.  The yellow is the current usage while the green is the average usage.  It may be hard to tell the difference between the two because I took this screen shot on a Sunday afternoon with minimal usage.  Of course, the server being primarily a file server and an Active Directory server, the average usage is pretty constant in any case.

It may not be obvious from the screen shot, but I’m running this as a screen saver, which is only one option for using Systemometer.  It can also be used as a kind of replacement performance monitor instead of using the built-in Task Manager for that function.  Actually, one way I validated the results I was seeing from Systemometer was to run it next to Task Manager and compare the displayed performance information.
Personally, I like running it as a screen saver because I can quickly check on my server as I walk past the screen into or out of my office.  Also, it seems to impress people who see it and can’t make heads or tails of what they’re seeing.  It’s not big, fancy monitoring system, but unless you really know what you’re looking at, the average person isn’t going to figure that out!

Finally, the other reason I use Systemometer is that it’s free!
Yep, that’s right, absolutely free.  Of course, it may not ever get updated again, but I’m okay with that, as long as it still works as it has been so far.


Flawless Victory!

Filed under: Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft,Pressgram — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:37 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Okay, so maybe not “flawless”, but victory nonetheless.
What this is, is a screen shot of me remotely accessing my new, upgraded server, after about 11 hours of work, with a break for dinner.  I migrated the complete Active Directory server, as well as the DNS and DHCP servers.  (Which for you non-geeks means I moved all the network services that let people get to both this server and the internet.)  Trickier still was getting the print services moved to the new server.  For some very strange reason, in my opinion, the import of the exported print configuration wouldn’t work unless I had the Windows Firewall turned on for the new Windows 2012 server.  That’s just crazy to me.  Why does print services care that the firewall is turned off?  It should be able to ignore that and just go!  Damn Microsoft….  (Grumble, grumble.)

In any case, after 10+ hours of work, the upshot is that most people won’t even realize that the server was upgraded on Monday.  (At least, I hope that’s the case.)  I may still have a few issues with printing on Monday morning with some people, but, I hope, those will be few and minor.  We’ll see, I guess.  But, everything else went about as well as I could hope for.
No, it wasn’t quite “flawless”, but I was able to work it all out, so that’s good enough.
Besides, what I really get paid for, in my opinion, is not the fact that I make few mistakes, but that I make virtually no catastrophic mistakes and I can work out pretty much all of the mistakes, catastrophic or not, that I do make.
In shot, I’m very good at what I do for a living.  As a character from an old Western, “The Guns of Will Sonnet”, used to say, “That’s not brag, just fact.”

So, now, it’s off to church to give thanks for not completely fucking this up!

Published via Pressgram



Filed under: Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,Review — 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

Where was this when I needed it?!

If you don’t work in the IT industry, you may think of us all as the stereotypical “pencil-necked geeks”, but you’d be wrong.  That’s especially true of those of us who have had the pleasure of doing regular work in large data centers or server farms.  When you see those long racks of endless servers in ads on TV, consider this, someone had to lift them all into place.  And, if you think that laptop you have to lug through airport security is heavy, then you never, ever want to have to lift a server into place in a server rack.  Consider this; a Dell PowerEdge 2950 server, which is a pretty standard or average size, weighs almost 60 pounds.  When you have to lift that into a server rack, you have to hold it steady while lining up the sliding rail assemblies so that they lock into place in that server rack.  Now, imagine controlling 60 pounds with that kind of fine motor control over your head.
Yeah, and that’s not even mentioning the big UPS units that often run more than 200 pounds.
So, that’s why so many IT people are really actually quite well built, at least when it comes to upper-body strength.  (It’s those damn chairs and keyboards that make the weight stack up around the middle!)

But, today, I got an email from a company advertising a product called ServerLift.
Now, regular readers know that I’m pretty mercenary, so I rarely advertise anything for free, but this product looks like genius!  This thing will, according to their product literature, will lift up to 500 pounds and will let you wheel that load right up to the rack and glide it right in.  I haven’t used one myself, because I don’t work in a big server environment at the moment, but the video makes it look like lining things up is pretty simple.  And, best of all, it looks really stable and secure, so there’s less possibility of dropping a server or, like I have, bending a rail that wasn’t quite lined up right.
I cannot tell you how many times I have wished for a product just like this one!  And, so help me, if I ever get into a position where I’m in charge of a big data center again, I’ll be finding out how much these are so I can work it into the budget.
I can only imagine how many broken toes this would have saved over the years!


Cool Solutions: DFMail.pl

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Novell,PERL,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

A few comments about my Cool Solutions solution.

First, it’s best to run this as “perl –noscreen dfmail.pl”. Of course, this assumes that you copied this to your sys:perl\scripts directory first. I’ve gotten several e-mail (already!) about “errors”. Those shouldn’t show up with the –noscreen option. In fact, I think they’re just informational messages because I used the “-w” option in the first line of the script. That means “show warnings” to the PERL interpreter. If you remove that, just the “-w”, the script should run without those problems.
Second, you have to have the settings right on your mail server or it won’t send mail! If you’re getting a message that says “failed to connect”, or something similar, that’s what’s happening.

To be honest, I was somewhat suprised to see that this old thing had gone up on Novell’s Cool Solutions website. I actually wrote this stinker last year and posted an entry about it in February. I sent this to them about two months ago and just heard back. I had totally forgotten that I’d even sent it!
Anyway, it’s a pretty “quick and dirty” solution to an ugly problem at my old job. I ended up not even using it because we were so strapped for disk space that I had to actually delete PERL from those servers. Anyway, it’s a free monitoring tool that uses the “duct tape of the Internet”, PERL. You can see the actual entry here. If you like it, vote for it!

UPDATE: J�rgen Schmitz from Germany discovered that PERL version 5.06, which is native on netware 6 if you haven’t done any upgrades, etc., needs UCSExt changed to Perl2UCS
So, replace the first couple of lines with:
use Socket;
use strict;
use Perl2UCS;

my $server = Perl2UCS->new(“UCX:Server”) or die “Can’t get UCX:Server object”;
my $sname = $server->{“NAME”} or die “Can’t get NAME from ucx:server
my $volume_mgr = Perl2UCS->new(“ucx:volumemgr”) or die “Can’t get

That should do it!


Free Servers?

Filed under: Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:08 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

See what happens when I start reading new in Australia?

According to this article on Australia IT, there’s a company out there offering free servers! Well, not quite “free”…
The hardware is free, but you have to buy their services. Sort of like that “free PC” craze that went on a couple of years back. Of course, that was the boom times, but still, it’s interesting. At least, it’s interesting to a Network Geek!

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